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How Not To Be Picked Last At Corporate Dodge Ball

February 17, 2015

We’ve all been there.

The numbers start to dwindle. Surely, you’ll go before that kid.


Then, someone picks a girl before you. And then another one.

Now it’s just down to you and the kid with asthma.

They call your name!

YES! you weren’t picked last. Congratulations.

That was when we were 10. Now you’re 45, the company did a shuffle, and you’re former team is in a different division.

Now what? How do you find a team, when you aren’t the guy choosing sides?

You do the same thing you did when you were a kid. I don’t mean you puff your chest and try to look taller than Suzy McQuire. No, you figure out how to provide value to a team.

While working for a large non-profit corporation, I was handed a project that had consistently be a source of trouble for our department. The regularly scheduled monthly maintenance. I was given all the responsibilities and no resources.

The guy I took over from gave me some advice before my first briefing with the department reps who were most impacted by our changes,

Wear your asbestos underwear.

Everyone hated the maintenance window. The clients hated that we disrupted their work. The engineers hated that the clients weren’t supportive. Management hated that the maintenance often broke as many things as it fixed. And my manager handed it to me and said,

See if you can fix this?

I was kind of teamless. Clients didn’t really want me on their team. The engineers didn’t want me on their team, since I was not really an engineer any more.

What to do? Two things. First I started talking to everyone. I went to their offices. I explained why the maintenance was important. listened to their concerns. I figured out how to give them plenty of warning so the clients could let their management know. I made sure that everyone thought i was working for them.

Second, I put structure and discipline around our processes. The maintenance became very, very structured. And while engineers will say that they can’t stand management “interference,” they crave a structured environment.

And an amazing thing happened. Well, two amazing things. First, the maintenance windows stopped causing other outages. They became a model of efficiency. So much so that engineers from other departments started asking if they could use our maintenance window.

And second, the clients started to take pride in our maintenance windows. They started to ask for ways that they could help us.

In other words, when I didn’t have a team, I did my job well and the team found me. The two keys were engage with your customers, and do your job well. The same things that worked in grade school.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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From → Team Building

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